New Canon Ad Campaign Takes a Swing at Smartphone Photography


Smartphones have been stealing market share from the big camera manufacturers for years now, and it doesn’t seem like it’ll stop anytime soon. Naturally, that leads to a healthy fear from companies like Canon and Nikon who, unlike Sony or Samsung, don’t have players on both sides.

For its part, Canon has decided to start fighting back in the form of a new advertising campaign with the tagline: “don’t let a call interrupt your photo.”

There was a time when the big camera manufacturers paid little attention to their convenient but under-powered competition, but that time is long gone. According to an O2 survey from last year, taking pictures is the thing we do most with our smartphones — making calls ranks second.



Back when the iPhone first passed up all of the high-end DSLRs to become the most used camera on Flickr, it was a big deal. If you check those stats today, you’ll see that the top three cameras currently used for Flickr are the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 4 (in that order). The Canon 5D Mark II and 7D are hanging on in 4th and 5th, with Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S III likely to be nipping at their heels before long.

Canon can’t ignore the problem anymore — hence the campaign. As you can see, the print ads focus on the “phone” part of the camera phone, and how that can turn into an annoying interruption. What if you get a call while you’re lining up your shot?

We’ll let you decide whether or not that’s a viable argument. In the past, optical zoom was always the trump card, but phones like Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Zoom are closing that gap as well. One thing that seems clear, however, is that Canon is threatened enough to start spending money fighting back.

Thanks for sending in the tip, Tulio!

  • df

    Not sure how anyone can think that a smart phone can replace a decent DSLR. Maybe point and shoot cameras (which have more or less gone extinct) but that’s about it. They pose no real threat otherwise. Photographers who want to do serious work have never, and will never consider a phone as an option. I don’t’ think anything has really changed.

    The reason so many photos on flickr are from smart phones is simply the number of phones out there, and the accessibility of them. It’s still no excuse for quality work though. (not to say it’s impossible to produce a reasonably decent photography with one – under certain conditions and with serious limitations)

  • DerBauminator

    I fail to understand why camera companies don’t work with cell phone manufacturers and increase their profit as well as improve the quality of the cell phone cameras.

  • CH

    It’s in Canon’s interest not to try to sell DSLRs to the casual smartphone user, but rather to create new hobbyist customers who appreciate what a DSLR can do. I don’t know how they should do that but they’re not going to do well trying to win back the casual snapshotter.

  • UatuSees

    Because lower quality sensors are the only thing that meet the cameras price point.

  • DerBauminator

    I suppose that’s true, but I feel like a “luxury” phone option would be a possibility. I don’t see why a Micro Four-Thirds phone wouldn’t possible.

  • Johnny Blood

    Horrible ad campaign.

  • superduckz

    They need a full frame phone. THEN I might be interested.

  • Renato Murakami

    Not going into the merit of smartphone cameras versus dSLR, man, talk about horrible ad campaign.
    Why would they bet on something that’s already proven wrong?
    Tons of people already takes pics everyday without being bothered much by the fact that someone might call them while they are taking photos.
    And not only that, frankly. People watch videos, browse, play games, listen to music, read the news, and do several other stuff without being bothered much by the fact that someone might call them while they are doing those.
    It could actually work against them. Just think about it – if this is marketing dSLR for amateurs, I can counter this one single “disadvantage” with tons of other advantages – not carrying two devices (one of them that is heavy and bulky), not having to charge two devices, not having to pay for two devices, among others.
    Provided that I still have my dSLR and I see several other points for using one rather than a smartphone camera, but this particular ad campaign couldn’t be more worthless.
    They could have (and I guess they already did at times if I’m not mistaken) capitalize on image quality, choice in lens, sensor size, dynamic range, low light quality, print… even more vapid stuff like “professional looks”.
    Oh, I’m gonna buy myself a dSLR because someone might call me while I’m taking pics with my smartphone – said no one ever.

  • Norshan Nusi

    If it’s about smartphone vs compacts, it make more sense.

    But from the pictures here, Canon is trying to advertised their lower end DSLR, such as 1000D, 1100D, 100D (100D isn’t that lower end, but it’s small and convenient to take everywhere) and so on.

  • Ashraf Faden

    I think it’s a weak campaign… too many people have been using their phones to snap photos without complaining about calls interrupting their shots! Besides, if I care much about what I’m shooting, I wouldn’t use my iPhone.. I’ll bring my DSLR with me. The iPhone comes out when I’m not out to specifically photograph.. but rather to capture some moments of my kids where my DSLR was not in the plan to be carried! Would I get rid of my DSLR for and iPhone camera?? NEVER!!

  • tttulio

    The point is: the best camera is the one you have with you.
    Canon ads just show no-one wants to carry a DSLR with them all day long.

  • nate parker

    Now we’re gettin’ somewhere!

  • bob

    Because the camera companies would drive themselves out of business if they made cell phones as good as their cameras. Who would buy a camera if their phone is as good for taking pictures.

  • olafs_osh

    I like the images, though. Funny.

  • Fenneke

    yeah, well, Canon and their ads… the murky pictures of the ‘Wildlife as Canon sees it’ ads in the National Geographic magazine have been putting me off of getting a Canon for years now

  • highfructosecorn

    I think it’s the point and shoot segment that canon and nikon is most worried about. Otherwise they’d start discounting the 5d mark ii i’ve had my eye on since god knows when.

  • Jonathan Maniago

    I suppose it’d inevitable come later for Sony and Samsung. They seem to be the only companies out there with a hand in both photographic and telecommunications devices.

  • DerBauminator

    While that is a legitimate concern, I see it as the business is shifting, instead of being ruined

  • pvbella

    It is a sure bet the Chicago Sun Times will prove them wrong- hee hee hee.

  • Linuxito

    I travel with my 600D and leave my phone turned off in my hotel room, so nobody can bother me.

  • dudung10

    google Samsung galaxy s4 zoom and see how big of a flop that product is.

  • DerBauminator

    That thing’s not going anywhere, but I was talking more of a mirrorless phone with a pancake lens included and the ability to switch out lenses, instead of a point and shoot that makes calls

  • df

    I’m not so sure. if you look at the advertisements shown in this article, they show an DSLR peeking out of the upper right corner.. It’s not a point and shoot.

  • Mitch Labuda

    Cell phone cameras are not required to be purchased at an outright cost, when a person has a cell phone contract, but wait!, there’s more, upgrade now for xxx$ and get the latest and greatest phone, with camera for about the same cost as point and shoot at the same price point and, wait! there’s more, the camera can’t make phone calls.

  • Will Mederski

    it took me a minute to ‘get it,’ and i still think it’s a stretch of a composition.

    personally, i rarely use my phone for actually phone calls. maybe 3-4 a week. and they are planned business related calls.

    sure, there are tons of things to distract users while using their camera phones… but all the little bells&whistles on modern DSLRs are just as obnoxious in my opinion.
    give me ISO, AF and a dial for shutter & aperture and i’m happy.
    currently i’ve got an old Nikon F body and a little Casio point&shoot in pieces on my desk, trying to make a perfect frankenstein camera.

  • Will Mederski

    five minutes of market research:
    what’s your biggest frustration with using a camera phone?
    #1: bad focus control
    #2: bad low light sensitivity

    #854: my grandma always calls right as i’m about to take a photo.

  • Brendan OhUiginn

    Sorry to burst your bubble but that’s not at all true. There were several major news photographers at last year’s Olympic Games who used their iPhone to take their photos for their articles. I also read an article about a photojournalist from one of the major news magazines (can’t remember which now) who did his ENTIRE reporting with his iPhone 4S. So saying that professionals “have never, and will never” use their phones for professional work is just flat out wrong.

  • df

    No bubble to burst. I know about that, but that’s about budget and ease and just scraping by to get it done…. not about photography.

    If you were a photographer and you had to photograph some gorgeous landscapes (or whatever it is). You would be fine with a cell phone to get the job done? really? Give me a real full frame (or larger format) camera any day…

    I think a real photographer cares about quality of work…

    We can compare later. ;P

  • Matthew Wagg

    Chase Jarvis…

  • Linuxito

    I’ve read somewhere that the camera it’s just the photographer’s tool. So I think it’s ok to use a smartphone to do your work… But: there is different ways to do work, and certainly different quality of the results. When you hire a mechanic to repair your car, which tool do you prefer he or her use to adjust a nut: a hammer or a wrench? The same rules apply to photography, quality is driven mainly by gear. And I’m not saying you need a Canon 5D Mark III to get great results, any DSLR or a decent mirrorless is enough.

  • df

    Yeah for sure… I agree with that too..

    Not to bring out yet another car analogy (but they tend to work well). . You don’t need a Porsche to go to the grocery store.. But when it matters on a track and you mean business… you’d rather have it than the civic. :)

  • Linuxito

    Of course, some artist could use a smartphone to do conceptual work, the same way Andy Warhol can paint a soup can and being considered art.

  • Linuxito

    I agree

  • Jesse Rogers

    I’m a faithful Canon user, and I love my 5D2, but this campaign kinda sucks. I don’t think I’ve ever had a phone call interrupt my Instagramming before. Most smartphone users are “hip” enough to technology that they all text more than they call, and a text message is hardly intrusive to snapping a photo. I am, however, curious as to who shot this campaign. The images are pretty decent.

  • CJ

    I agree with df.
    Professional photojournalists that use iPhones to capture some images are, I’m positive, also using a DSLR and most likely prefer that. It’s fun to challenge the limits of such things as the iPhone when you have experience with professional photography/photojournalism, but it would not replace DSLRs, large format, medium format, etc. Ever. …Especially if you are making prints.

  • wilmark johnatty

    Canon is out of place here. Comparing DSLR photography and phone photography is like a Mac truck trying to get SUV buyers on board. Its not even close. Phones are making sure that there is alot of really bad photography out there to compare.

  • P.L.W.

    The point is: the most convenient camera is the one you have with you.**

    These Canon ads just show that people who are not photographers/interested in becoming serious photographers don’t care to carry a DSLR with them all day long.**

  • AJ

    Dear Canon,

    Innovate or die. I don’t understand why you embarked on such a lame ad campaign.


  • preston

    That is the biggest waste of ad money I’ve ever seen from a camera company. Absolutely horrible. I don’t like Ashton either but I can’t deny that he contributed to many point and shoot sales for Nikon to teenagers and younger. This Canon ad, on the other hand, will not convince a single person to consider a dslr over a cell phone camera.

    Unclear message – At first I didn’t get it because it looked like he was trying to take a self portrait with a person that wasn’t cooperating.

    Weak criticism (once you finally understand what they’re getting at) – I
    have never once thought of call interruptions as a downside to cell
    phone photography.

    Really fake looking images – Unnatural lighting that doesn’t match with the background – looks like all were shot in a green screen studio with fake backgrounds added in later.

  • preston

    Agree with your post completely except for the last sentence. To me the shadows look unnaturally soft against the fake green screen type backgrounds.

  • BP

    Photography is not good unless you use Large Format

  • Durand

    Because nobody wants a phone with a big lens on one side? It’s completely unergonomic.

  • maw

    > they’re not going to do well trying to win back the casual snapshotter.

    Agreed. It’s way past that point now.

  • Boops

    Also, the sheer volume that people upload because they have no thought for editing or repetition, and would upload anything even if it was, by many standards, sh**ty.

  • Aaron Tsuru

    sorry, but no… you do not need a “DSLR” to be a serious photographer.

  • Christine Clarke

    How did that backpacker get a signal out there?

  • CelticBrewer

    I use both my phone camera and my DSLR a lot. I have friends and family who do the same. I don’t know any who use flickr. I don’t see why that should be used as any basis for who does or uses what. A wedding photographer might take 5 thousand shots a day and put forward only 600 of the best (usually on smugmug). That’s far different from a phone user who snaps 50 shots and uploads them all to flickr. As always, I question the method and numbers that were used to come up with this argument.


    LOL. That’s like saying you don’t need a water hose to fill a swimming pool, you should use a cup of water.

  • Oj0

    Your name kinda says it all. Is someone with a Sony a7R not a serious photographer?